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The Wizard of Ozil

Did Arsenal and the powers that be make Ozil into the new Colin Kaepernick?

Mesut Ozil - Arsenal - Premier League
Mesut Özil’s lonely farewell
Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Like Dorothy, Ozil was lost in a place he doesn’t want to be. Is it a case of a place where no one wants him at Emirates City?

Did Arsenal and the powers that be make Ozil into the new Kaepernick?

Football is full of controversies. The involvement of a certain two Escobars in Colombia’s 1994 World Cup, Beitar Jerusalem (self-proclaimed most racist club in the world), Marcus Rashford and the UK government on free meals. Like it or not football is influenced by a countless number of external forces including political and religious. This time Mesut Özil is between the tectonic plates.


The Jewel in the crown

On September 2nd, 2013 at 10.21 pm, Sky Sports announced the signing of Mesut Ozil, but it was on September 1st, the day before transfer deadline day when Arsene Wenger said on TV “Maybe we’ll have a good surprise for you” looking like the cat who got the cream (or like Joffrey once he beheaded Ned Stark).

Arsenal completed the club record £42.4m signing of Real Madrid’s German midfielder Mesut Ozil on a five-year deal. He was 24 years old at the time. The move easily eclipsed the £15m Arsenal paid Zenit St Petersburg for Andrey Arshavin in 2009.

At the time, signing Ozil delivered a statement of intent to the Gunners’ Premier League rivals. It felt like they had found their Leonidas and with a few more acquisitions the Spartan army would be ready to do battle for the Premiership title.


Ozil career

Ozil began his senior club career playing for his hometown club Schalke 04, where he was part of the youth set up. with his performances for the club’s youth team, he was known as the club’s rising star. Opportunity arose when the Brazilian Lincoln Cássio de Souza Soares was suspended; the young Ozil took his place and never looked back.

Keen to tie him down, Mirko Slomka, the then-Schalke manager, fell out with Ozil soon after the youngster had declined Schalke’s offer. Claiming that a yearly salary of €1.5 million would not be enough, Ozil eventually fell out with club management and moved on to Werder Bremen in January 2008. This led to Mirko Slomka claiming that Özil would not play another match for Schalke. Like the saying goes, “know your worth and then add tax”, so one cannot blame Ozil as both parties are looking after their interests. It’s a shame that only one person is vilified (Ozil).

Ozil’s performances led the giants of Europe to stand up and take notice of the young German, which culminated in a move to Real Madrid in 2010. Madrid moved quickly, like someone playing 007 Golden Eye on Nintendo 64 rushing to get Odd Job on multiplayer mode. There Ozil helped the club win La Liga title, ranking first in league assists for three straight seasons, he also holds the record for the most German Player of the Year awards (5). He made his senior debut for the German national team in 2009 at age 20 and appeared in five major tournaments. He was the top assist provider at the 2010 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2012, where he helped Germany twice reach the semi-final. Özil helped Germany win the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but retired from international competition in 2018 as he was predictably used as a scapegoat by the German media and German Football Association.


Ozil at Arsenal: Where did it go wrong?

A mixture of high wages, below-par performance, and injuries meant all eyes were firmly on Ozil both from fans and pundits alike. Cast as lazy, a ghost in games was a common theme like wind and rain in the UK. It seems Ozil was typecast like Daniel Radcliff, we can only see him as Harry Potter no matter what he does, and we refuse to think otherwise, even though Ozil was 2nd in distance covered and 4th in sprints in the 2016-17 season.

With 19 assists and 6 goals, Ozil was a must in Fantasy Football in the 2015-16 season. Other than that though, Ozil never made a double-digit haul in any other season. Ozil’s assist record was only recently beaten by Kevin De Bruyne during the 2019-20 season.

Ozil is like a bespoke suit made to measure, but Arsenal seems to be an off the rack club ill-fitted to the skill and attributes of Ozil. In 2015-16, Arsenal made Ozil front and center of their plans, and he did deliver, but if one word could sum up Arsenal’s season, it would be “strange”. But then again, that would only be fitting as that was the league season that saw 5,000-to-1 Leicester win the league while previous champions Chelsea finished tenth.

Still, Arsenal’s season seems bizarre — on the one hand, they finished higher than for 11 years; on the other, they faded away spectacularly out of the title race by March in an all too familiar Arsenal manner.

At Madrid, Ozil was a fan favorite. Likewise in the dressing room. At the unveiling of Gareth Bale, one of the most exciting players on the planet at the time, the fans were screaming, “Don’t sell Ozil”. Some of the players echoed the fans’ frustrations. “If I were in charge at Madrid, Ozil would be one of the last to be leaving,” Sergio Ramos said. To hear this from Los Blancos shows that they felt Ozil is special, a key member of their team. Not many players can say that the Madrid fans wanted them to stay; they are notorious for dropping players, even legends like Raul and Iker Casillas. RM is like a revolving door; even Ronaldo loved Ozil and Ronaldo rarely likes people other than himself and the mirror.

Once Carlo Ancelotti took the helm, the Italian asked in pre-season that his forwards give extra intensity in training. Di Maria responded, and it was alleged that Ozil did not. Ancelotti stated, “We need quality players, but they must work defensively. That’s the key to the season, finding the balance with quality players.” I feel this has been a common theme throughout Ozil’s career. Arteta, like Ancelotti, requires more from his players, more than Ozil can provide. It makes me wonder, why would you keep asking a Ferrari to go off-roading every day unless you see it more as a Ford truck now.

The popular playmaker never looked likely to be the first choice under Ancelotti. The Italian was unimpressed by Ozil’s attitude in training, and he understood that a sale was necessary following Bale’s acquisition and also needing funds to offer Ronaldo a new contract.

Real were also unhappy at the German’s constant push for an improved contract. Ozil had demanded parity with Ronaldo, and when that request was refused, asked for an additional €2m per year. Currently at Arsenal, he has now doubled his money.

Ozil’s talent is undeniable, but it’s the tactical part of his game that makes him a target. Previous mangers like Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger used defensive midfielders to release Ozil to roam free and do what he does best; Ozil thrived. At Arsenal it was due to players like Mathieu Flamini; at Madrid it was Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso.

This season, Ozil has recently not made the 22 man squad; is that fair? Can you honestly say Ozil is not better than any others in his position? Or is it because he doesn’t fit Arteta’s style of play? This is a complex situation, as one can argue Ozil is better than many of his peers. However, one can also argue that he doesn’t fit in Areta’s style of play, which is high energy press and counter-attack football. With the arrival of Thomas Partey, the formula that once succeeded for Ozil could be in play again, with Partey covering the defense alongside Xhaka or Elneny, again releasing Ozil to provide the creative spark that Arsenal has lacked.

With Arsenal’s lack of direction and lack of spending during transfer windows, fans are using Ozil as a scapegoat due to his high wage and his refusal to help the club that asked for a pay cut during the pandemic.

His wage is a reflection of what Arsenal once felt was Ozil’s worth, but now management wants to backtrack and not honour the contractual agreement. Football owners are one-sided and think about their gains at the end of the day; it’s a business, which people seem to forget. When they needed Ozil, they handed a huge contract to protect their prized asset from leaving, and now they want to offload him but he wants to see out his contract for his reasons (money maybe?), so he is seen as a Bond villain.

It’s not just his on-field issues impacting his career; it’s off the field too. In December 2019, Ozil went on social media to publish a poem denouncing the treatment of Uyghurs in China. China’s state broadcasters China Central Television and PP Sports responded two days later by removing the match between Arsenal and Manchester City from their schedules, while his likeness was removed from Konami a Chinese firm game PES 2020, Some have suggested Ozil’s eventual omission from the Arsenal squad was related to this criticism.



Ozil needs a club that complements his strengths, and sadly Arsenal isn’t that club. Ozil is known as a luxury player, and at present the Gunners may feel they cannot afford that either on the pitch or off. He may need to follow the yellow brick road and get his last pay check, leaving for MLS or the Middle East.

A lot of fans feel Ozil was used as a pawn for greedy owners to get rid of a huge wage bill and reduce others. People didn’t make him a Kaepernick-like figure for just tweeting about the treatment of Uyghurs Muslims in China. The club made him Kaepernick type figure by sidelining him in the way they have.

He will always be known a footballing great with accolades to prove it, but it just seems that Ozil will also be known for what people consider to be extremely high wages too, as this was the stick used to beat him.



Is Mesut Ozil a victim or a villian?

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Have Ozil’s off the field issues followed him onto the field? Is Ozil really not good enough to be in the current Arsenal 22 man squad? Would you want him at your favorite club?